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This Month's Column

This Month's Column
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John A. Kline, PhD


February 2016

Leading Meetings Effectively—Part 1

When leading meetings, leaders must often guide discussion on various subjects in order to keep the group focused. Without preparation to guide the discussion, discussion may flounder and even fail to bring useful results.  As the adage goes, “If you fail to prepare, prepare to fail.”  Here are four things to help leaders prepare to guide discussion.  

1. Write a participant-centered objective with the end in mind; here is an example:  “The objective of this session is for each participant to understand why mutual trust must exist between the leader and the followers.”  Notice the objective is not what you the leader wants to do; it is what each participant should be able to do after the discussion.

2. Organize carefully, ensuring that the main points you cover support the objective.  Careful organization ensures that you make the best use of the time, participants learn the most, and each participant achieves the objective of the session.  For example, the main points on mutual trust may be: (1) Mutual trust produces member satisfaction; (2) Mutual trust enhances group productivity; and (3) Mutual trust ensures long-term success of the group. These are main points that you have determined must be understood in order to meet the objective. 

3. Be willing to relinquish some control over the conduct of the session and allow for give and take.  Instead of leaders presenting material directly to others, leaders must be participant-centered rather than leader-centered, allowing for the twists and turns of discussion, while keeping discussion on track and focused in order to cover the material and achieve the objective. 

4. Know that to be successful, leaders must not only use prepared questions, they must be able to be able to ask unplanned ones.  But by knowing the participants and anticipating things that might be said, leaders can prepare for the unplanned questions they may have to ask.  Being able to effectively ask unplanned questions is often crucial to the success of a meeting.

Next month we will see how a leader can plan to ask unplanned questions that are often necessary to leading a successful meeting.
John Kline
Montgomery, Alabama
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